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The embedding debate

The Story

During the Iraq War, media outlets had the option of "embedding" their journalists with the U.S. military. This enabled a journalist to travel with a specific military unit, getting up-close access to its daily operations. The CBC chose not to embed any reporters in Iraq. Why not? In this 2003 panel discussion, CBC foreign correspondents discuss that tricky decision and debate the philosophy behind it. "There are mixed feelings within the group right here," says forum host Peter Mansbridge. 

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television Special
Broadcast Date: May 25, 2003
Guests: Adrienne Arsenault, Nahlah Ayed, Patrick Brown, Don Murray, Paul Workman
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Duration: 8:27

Did You know?

• Although the CBC chose not to embed journalists, Radio-Canada did have one - reporter Luc Chartrand was embedded with the marines in Iraq. Media Magazine (the Canadian Association of Journalists' journal) described that decision as having "mixed results." Chartrand's colleague Céline Galipeau said there were certainly benefits, but they were tempered by limitations: "We put him in context with other things, with facts on the ground. Certainly we got more visuals. But always, control determines coverage."

• As many media commentators have pointed out, the term "embedding" may be new but the practice is actually quite old. Prior to the Vietnam War - during the First and Second World Wars, for instance - reporters commonly travelled with military units and typically wore military uniforms. As professor Stephen J.A. Ward points out in a 2003 Media article, "Journalists have been so closely identified with armies in the past that it was not until 1977 that the Geneva Conventions recognized journalists as civilians."


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